COSLA calls for public services to be ‘local by default’, as it launches manifesto for local democracy

Written by Jenni Davidson on 21 March 2016 in News

Scottish councils are calling for greater powers to be devolved to local government in the next parliament

The Scottish public sector should be given a radical overhaul to make public services “local by default”, says COSLA, outlining five actions it wants politicians to take in the first 100 days of the next parliament.

COSLA is asking every parliamentary candidate to sign up to five pledges it says will put local democracy on the political map in Scotland and produce more equal outcomes for communities. 

In the first pledge of its ‘Manifesto for Stronger Scottish Democracy’, the local government body calls for an immediate review of how public services are governed to make them “local by default”.


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The second demand would see the relationship between local and national government redrawn, with national government responsible for establishing priorities for the nation, but delivery of services left to local areas to allow for local priorities and preferences.

“Local variation is the solution, not the blockage, to better and more cost effective public services,” COSLA maintains.

The next two proposals call for local taxation to be put back in local hands and for politicians to join with COSLA in a new constitutional convention to promote local accountability and participation.

The last pledge calls for  future MSPs to “join up thinking” on public sector reform so that it is based on local outcomes rather than a “wasteful” focus on inputs such as teacher and police numbers and policies prescribing how budgets are to used.

Future MSPs should not “opt for a clumsy restructuring of services”, but rebuild democracy from communities up, it states.

Speaking as he launched the manifesto, COSLA president Councillor David O’Neill said: “In just over six weeks Scotland goes to the polls. 

“It is a pivotal opportunity to think about the kind of country we want, and about the changes that could make a real difference to communities across the country.

“Like every elected local councillor, I already passionately believe in local democracy and see it as a real, meaningful and positive force for good in every part of Scotland. 

“Local democracy also impacts on every single one of us in one way or another on a daily basis.

“All of us within Scottish local government want to harness the power of a more local way of doing things, and overhaul participation in decision making across the country by bringing democracy closer to people.”

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